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October 30, 2007

Denver International Film Festival - Thirty Years On

esquire theater.jpg

I got my tickets Monday afternoon to the Denver International Film Festival. I was given passes to six films which isn't very much, but considering my work schedule is keeping me from seeing more films, I would not have seen much more than that anyways. Those of you who have seen some of the films showing up here may be voicing your opionions about what I should have gotten tickets for. As it was, with only Sundays and Tuesdays available, I tried to find a balance between what I really wanted to see, plus take advantage of those films I might not see otherwise. I may be able to see a few more films on screeners.

The films I'll be seeing on the not so big screens of the Starz Theater will be Faces of a Fig Tree and Cool School on November 11; Tuya's Marriage and Teeth on November 13, concluding with the new Jacques Rivette film and Four Month, Three Weeks and Two Days.

This will be my first time going to the festival as "press". My relationship with the festival goes back to the first film festival held in May of 1978. Through my mother, who was writing for the Denver Post at the time, I got connected to Ron Hecht, the festival founder. I wrote notes for several of the films, a few of which I had already seen in New York City the previous year. Hecht had run one of the couple of "art theaters" in Denver, The Vogue, and had served as a production assistant to Robert Altman on Nashville. Altman was the first filmmaker to be honored at the festival where he presented an advanced screening of A Wedding. During that first year, and for several years after that, the film festival was held for an extended weekend. What made it challenging to attend was that screenings were held in three different theaters simultaneously. This meant not only choosing films based on the schedule but also location, factoring driving and parking. One of those theaters was The Esquire, pictured above.

I forgot when the festival shifted to the Fall, but in 1984 the festival was held at a three screen multiplex. This meant it was easier to attend different films and catch a meal nearby. Among the celebrities to show up that year were Steve Martin and Jonathan Demme. The festival ended on a down note when news got out that Francois Truffaut had died.

Based on the schedule for this years festival, there are a few changes. The tributes are not emphasized as in the past when Lillian Gish or John Schlesinger showed up. Probably fewer people would show up, but for this year's tribute to Norman Jewison, I would have chosen two films not available on DVD, Gaily, Gaily with Beau Bridges as the young Ben Hecht, and The Art of Love because it stars both Angie Dickinson and Elke Sommer. As for Stephen Goldblatt, I understand that someone is trying to gear up the audience for his latest film. Instead of two films by Mike Nichols, I would have chosen Return of the Soldier because it has both Julie Christie and Ann-Margret. There is no John Cassavetes award this year (an award, I should add that existed well before the same named Independant Spirit award). Considering that John Sie has been instrumental in supporting the fesival and giving it a home, I would think the award would be given to one of the most improvisational of filmmakers, Wong Kar-Wai.

On a more personal note, one of the films I may miss, unless a screener is available, is Mardik: From Baghdad to Hollywood. I briefly got to know Mardik Martin at NYU where he was teaching filmmaking at the time. My one enduring memory is sitting near him when we were part of the audience of Dick Cavett's show in 1969. We went primarily because one of the guests was Federico Fellini. What had some of us in stitches was when Cavett's other guest appeared. While the most of the audience clapped and cheered, Martin was yelling out, "Hey Bernie, Bernie Schwartz!".

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at October 30, 2007 12:11 AM


4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days is a remarkable film!

I walked out on the Rivette film (The Duchess of Langeois). I hope you like tedious.

If you can find time and grab a ticket to Yella and I Served the King of England, do it! They're both really fine films.

Posted by: Marilyn at November 1, 2007 05:05 PM

Are you going to the panel on film blogs?

I tried to see Teeth at Sundance but got shut out of the screening. I do recommend Wonders Are Many and All in this Tea, though it sounds like you won't have time to squeeze them in.

Posted by: Brian at November 2, 2007 05:02 PM

Based on my current work schedule, I'll probably miss the panel on film blogs. As for other films, I am trying to see about screeners available for those films I can not see as scheduled.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at November 3, 2007 02:42 AM